Chronic Illness • Jul 12, 2010

Migraine Headaches

Several parents have asked about migraine headaches lately. Migraine headaches are common, and it is true that they run in families, including mine. These troublesome headaches come in many variations, but they usually have some combination of head pain, nausea/vomiting, abdominal pain, and sensitivity to light/sound and improve somewhat with sleep. Rarely, they cause temporary blindness, paralysis, and other frightening problems.

Migraines can start early and do sometimes occur in infants and toddlers. In young children, they are more common in boys. But once you hit puberty, they are much more common in females. Migraines affect 25% of all women. Don’t we all love those female hormones!


Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen are the baseline treatment. There are several additional treatment options depending on your child’s age and the frequency and severity of the headaches. Regardless of which treatment you use for your child, it should start at the very beginning of each headache and include sleep whenever possible. The longer you wait to treat these, the harder they are to treat.

Triggers for Migraine Headaches

There are common and uncommon triggers and everyone is a bit different. Things like stress, changes in sleep patterns, changes in caffeine intake, rapid changes in the weather, hormonal changes, and many others things can trigger migraines. One of the worst migraines I ever had was triggered by smelling gasoline fumes while waiting in a long line to ride go-carts. It was not worth it!

Severe or recurrent headaches should always be discussed with your child’s physician.

Does anyone else have specific triggers for their own or their children’s migraines? Does anyone have any tricks they use to help make their kids more comfortable during headaches?


  1. The only trigger we’ve identified is Speghetti-O’s, and it is far from consistent. I haven’t identified any others yet, but my 5-year-old (just turned 6) gets them very frequently. Both mom and dad get them, and three out of four grandparents. The only surprise is that my other daughter hasn’t had any….yet.

    The trouble is, once a 5-year-old figures out she can get out of unpleasant activities, or awkward situations, by having a headache, it becomes a convenient excuse. Sometimes it’s really hard to tell when she is truly having one. However, once they progress to a certain level, her eyes get glassy, enticing her with distraction fails, and she craves lap time. Usually it’s followed by a long nap.

    This dynamic makes determining triggers even more tricky than it already is.

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